GILFORD – Voters will be able to learn more about the proposed bond for the Gilford Elementary School that will update and repair all of the mechanical, electrical, Internet and HVAC to today's standards, along with the school district's operating budget for the coming school year. A public hearing regarding the proposed $2.2 million bond for mechanical repairs scheduled for tonight at 6 p.m. in the high school auditorium, and the school district budget is scheduled for 7 p.m.
According to Chairman Karen Thurston, the School Board voted 4-to-1 to allow Bonnette, Page and Stone to do all of the repairs at once. Member Chris McDonough said that since the a 15-year-bond would cost more in the long run than spending $500,000 a year for five years, he would like to see the project done over time.
Thurston said rest of the board members felt that one disruption to the school rather than five years of them would be better for the students and employees. She also said that by doing the upgrades bit by bit, there would be some redundancies.
The Budget Committee supported the project by a vote of 10-to-0 and Thurston, who is the School Board representative to the Budget Committee, said hearing from the general public about the project will help the Budget Committee at it moves forward to the deliberative session of School District Meeting.
At 7 p.m., there is a public hearing for the Gilford School District budget. Scott Isabelle said yesterday that the proposed budget is $25.67 million and the amount to be raised by local taxes is $15.15 million.
Thurston said the biggest controversy between the Budget Committee and the School Board was the Budget Committee's recommendation that support staff and administrators get 1.5 percent raises while the average merit raises budget for teachers, who work under a collective bargaining agreement, is around 3 percent.
The School Board had asked for 3 percent for administrators and support staff.
Thurston said the support staff are generally the people who earn the least in a school district and one of the budget "triangles" used by the board is its employees.
She went on to say that the budget triangle has three components – the employees, the buildings, and the taxpayers.
"The school overseas the biggest buildings with the most employees and our output is well-educated students," she said.
She said the buildings are in use for many more hours than a school day and are used for community events, community meetings and activities for the students such as band, music, theater, sports and hundreds of clubs for all ages.
But, she said, "We have to consider the tax payers, and not just those in the island and shore districts who aren't residents.
"We have to consider the middle- and lower-income people who live in our community as well," she continued. "How do I balance this three ways is what I always ask myself."
She said the proposed budget, with many cuts made by the board and some additional cuts made by the Budget Committee, will not affect education or the goals set by the district's strategic plan.
"The Budget Committee is made up of dedicated, hard-working volunteers who spend hours going though every line of the budget just like we do," she said.
She said the reason she, a member of the board and the Budget Committee, want people to attend the tonight's public hearing is so they can appreciate and listen to what they have to say. She said that there is still time to tweak a budget after the public hearing but before the deliberative session.
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